Third Generation Superconducting Wires

The vast publicity of the discovery of high temperature superconductors in 1987 led many to the conclusion that we were about to enter a superconducting age. People may still remember the excitements about the huge business potentials and significant impacts on civilization. For electric power applications, the zero resistance of superconductors offers significant improvements in efficiency and reliability of the electric power grids. The clean, nearly loss-free potential of high temperature superconductors is an excellent match for "green" and renewable energy technologies.

The key challenge is how to make the brittle ceramic superconductors into commercially viable superconducting wires. A huge potential market in the order of $100 billions is expected once commercially viable superconducting wires become available. The idea of third generation superconducting wires may bring the dreams of a superconducting age into reality.

The first generation superconducting wires or Bi-based superconducting wires by the powder-in-tube method have enabled the tests of many large-scale applications. Prototypes of superconducting cables, transformers, motors, generators, superconducting magnetic energy storage devices, and fault current limiters have been successfully tested around the world. The task now is to improve the fabrication technology of the superconducting wires to meet the performance and cost requirements for widespread commercial applications.

The emphasis of most existing companies and research labs at present is on the second generation superconducting wires or coated conductors. Although good performance has been achieved with the second generation superconducting wires, it seems extremely difficult to make long length wires necessary for practical applications.

The third generation superconducting wire technology provides a cost-effective method to make high performance superconducting wires for widespread commercial applications (Technical summary). The main advantages include:

  • Low equipment investment;
  • Low processing cost;
  • High production stability;
  • High performance;
  • Short development cost and time.
  • The concept of the third generation superconducting wires provides a blueprint for a series of commercially viable high temperature superconducting wires. If the discovery of the high temperature superconductors in 1987 has given us a view into the future of the superconducting age, the idea of the third generation superconducting wires may finally make the door to the superconducting age wide open. Potential applications include:

  • Electric power applications: superconducting cables, transformers, motors, generators, superconducting magnetic energy storage devices, and fault current limiters;
  • Medical applications: MRI systems, mobile MRI systems;
  • Science applications: magnet, high energy physics, fusion energy;
  • Transportation applications: Maglev;
  • Military applications.

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